I woke up last night around 3:30. Turned down the heat a few degrees, got a drink, checked the time.

Tried to get settled. But sleep eluded me. My thoughts turned to a twelve-year old girl in Israel, and what she found in the middle of the night.

True, one never knows what life will bring, but here in Cincinnati, I can go to sleep pretty darn sure that I will not wake up and find my children with their throats slit, lying in pools of their blood, G‑d forbid.

Tamar Fogel came home this Friday night from a Shabbat youth gathering to find her mother and father, her eleven and four year-old brothers Yoav and Eldad, and her darling baby sister Hadas, all of four months, brutally murdered. On the Shabbat, after dinner.

Their crime? These young innocents, and their parents, teachers of youth? They love the Land of Israel and take it seriously enough, to actually walk the talk, to try to carve out lives upon it.

True, the media usually paints people like them as interlopers. (As if even that would make their cold-blooded barbaric murder justifiable.)

When I looked at the victims’ pictures, I didn’t see foaming mouths, anger and hatred, or horns. I saw a happy family; heartbreakingly happy.

This summer, my son married a lovely girl from Kedumim, a neighborhood near the Fogel’s home in Itamar. We spent Shabbat there. I did not hear incitement, anger, radicalism. I saw simple family homes. I saw hard working, normal families working in technology, education, social work, therapies, positive people living good lives. I heard melodious prayers. My new in-laws are a computer programmer and occupational therapist. My daughter in-law is studying biology and doing research at Weitzman Institute, home of many innovative medical breakthroughs that benefit all of humanity.

While at the synagogue, I closed my eyes and imagined myself in Cincinnati. They sang the same songs, for blessing, for peace.


Last time I was in Israel was in 2003, in the height of the second intifada. Buses were being blown up with impunity. A visit to a café could be deadly. In the middle of this terror, I went to the Klezmer festival in the Galilean town of Safed. Under a full moon, in the middle of the night, so high in the mountains one could almost touch the stars, thousands of Jews of every persuasion sang passionately together. They did not sing for blood or revenge. Voices rose together to sing for peace and for unity, with a wholesome and innocent sweetness that took my breath away.

A short drive away, however, children are being taught different songs. They are being raised on a steady diet of hatred, incitement and blood-lust. On state-sponsored TV, in their textbooks, in every form of media. Mickey and Minnie Mouse sing about rivers of Jewish blood. Suicide bombers, brutal sadistic murderers of innocents such as the Fogels, have plazas named after them, and become national heroes.

This is not pleasant to talk about. It is not politically correct to dwell upon. But words are very powerful. As the Torah teaches, “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.”

The murderous incitement has been going on for many years and is largely ignored or pooh-poohed by the West. Shocking videos of little children dressed as future suicide bombers, singing cute children’s songs about rifles and bombs, can be found on the site of the Palestinian Media Watch. After a lifetime of this “education,” from children’s ditties on through adult incitement such as Thursday’s call by a Palestinian official calling for unity in his own ranks, so they can together “turn all weapons towards the main enemy, Israel,” a dutiful boy or girl grows up to fulfill his society’s highest calling. The horrific, unfathomable result now calls out to us from fresh graves.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed this issue in the aftermath of Friday night’s barbaric blood bath.

There can be no peace while generations are raised in a culture saturated with virulent hatred, every bit as virulent and deadly as Nazism. We are every bit as guilty as those who turned a blind eye and tried to appease Hitler, if we ignore this harsh reality. With all the Holocaust education that prevails, we must learn not only to be tolerant, but to take an uncompromising stand against all those who teach and revel in tolerance’s polar opposite.

And, while we must try to fight evil talk and incitement, perhaps an even more powerful weapon lies in our own… children’s songs. Yes, the song of children.

Faced with critical situations of impending danger, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, often called for Jewish children to gather and pray, recite verses from the Torah and give charity together. Not just for educational and formative value. But because the Torah of innocent children is our people’s real time, timeless, most powerful weapon.

In fact, concerning the story of the holiday of Purim the midrash relates that the Jewish people were saved due to the 22,000 children Mordechai gathered to pray to G‑d for salvation.

Three young children have lost their ability to sing and pray and learn Torah in this world. We need to fill that gaping void.

Let’s make sure our children’s mouths and minds and hearts are filled with holy, sweet and good songs, and let their purity heal and protect us.